Karl Radek

Karl Radek

Karl Berngardovich Radek (October 31, 1885 - May 19, 1939) was a socialist active in the Polish and German movements before World War I and an international Communist leader after the Russian Revolution.


He was born in Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine), as Karol Sobelsohn, to a Jewish family. He took the name "Radek" from a favourite character in a book (perhaps "Syzyfowe prace" by Stefan Żeromski). He joined the Polish Social Democratic movement in 1904 and participated in the 1905 Revolution in Warsaw.


In 1907 he moved to Germany, joined the SPD and worked on various party newspapers until he was expelled in 1913 under unclear circumstances. [Schorske, Carl: "German Social Democracy, 1905-1917", Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) & London 1983, pp. 254-255; Nettl, Peter: "Rosa Luxemburg" (Abridged edition), Oxford University Press, London, Oxford & New York 1969, pp.315-317, 353-356.] After the outbreak of World War I he moved to Switzerland where he worked as a liaison between Vladimir Lenin and the Bremen Left, with which he had close links from his time in Germany. He was one of the passengers on the "sealed train" that carried Lenin and other Russian revolutionaries through Germany after the February Revolution in Russia.

He took an anti-war stance during World War I while living in Switzerland and Sweden. In 1917 after the October Revolution he traveled to Petrograd and became an active Bolshevik functionary. He was in Germany in 1918-20 organising the German Communist movement.

Comintern and after

Radek, together with the Comintern member Dmitry Manuilsky, made an unsuccessful attempt to launch a second German revolution in October 1923, before Lenin died.ru icon [http://www.hronos.km.ru/biograf/radek.html Karl Radek's biography article on hronos.ru] ]

In 1920 Radek returned to Russia and became a secretary of the Comintern but his influence decreased and he lost his place on the Central Committee in 1924, being expelled from the Party in 1927. However, he was re-admitted in 1930 and helped to write the 1936 Soviet Constitution, but during the Great Purge of the 1930s, he was accused of treason and confessed at the Trial of the Seventeen (1937, also called the Second Moscow Trial). He was sentenced to 10 years of penal labor.

He was reportedly killed in a labor camp in a fight with another inmate. However, during the investigations during the Khrushchev Thaw it was established that he was killed by an NKVD operative under direct orders from Lavrentiy Beria. [ru icon [http://perpetrator2004.narod.ru/documents/Show_Trials/Radek_Sokolnikov_Murder.doc Document describing the murder of Radek and another political immate, Sokolnikov] ]

Radek is also credited with originating a number of political jokes about Joseph Stalin. ["In spite of his [Radek's] confession and reinstatement, he was bitterly critical of the government, and was credited with inventing most of the anti-government jokes then circulating in Moscow." cite book
last = Poretsky
first = Elisabeth
authorlink = Elisabeth Poretsky
title = "Our Own People"
publisher = University of Michigan Press
year = 1969
pages = p. 185

He was exonerated in 1988.



* [http://www.marxists.org/archive/radek/index.htm Works by Karl Radek] available at the Marxists Internet Archive.

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